Henry Dimbleby

National Food Strategy author Henry Dimbleby has warned the government “wouldn’t last a week” if it used taxes to try to reduce meat consumption.

Dimbleby’s report in July called for a raft of new taxes on sugar and salt, but held back from recommending meat taxes, despite the idea being floated in his consultation. He said that while there were compelling environmental reasons for cutting meat consumption, a fiscal aporach would prove too divisive.

Campaigners including the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC) backed by the Royal Colleges of medicine and nursing and the British Medical Association, are among those backing plans for meat taxes.

The National Food Strategy has urged the government to “nudge” consumers towards eating less meat, arguing that it is unsustainable for 85% of total land producing food in the UK to be used to graze livestock or produce animal feeds.

However, speaking on BBC4’s PM programme yesterday, Dimbleby said taxation would be a step too far.

“The complexities and various different vested interests are unending,” he said.

“We went all around the country talking to people and when the subject of meat came up you could feel the crackle of electricity.”

“I think if you were to put a meat tax on now a government wouldn’t survive a week.”

The National Food Strategy argues that a meat tax could penalise poorer consumers, though it does recommend sweeping new taxes of food high in sugar or salt.

A government White Paper in response to the report was promised within six months, but there has been speculation it will be delayed.